Wed, Jun 24, 2015 - Page 7 News List

S Carolina governor urges flag removal

DIVISIVE:The governor’s action sparked similar moves, with the Mississippi House speaker urging the removal of the Confederate emblem from the state flag

AP, CHARLESTON, South Carolina

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, center, embraces US Senator Tim Scott during a news conference in the South Carolina State House on Monday in Columbia, South Carolina.

Photo: AP

South Carolina’s governor said on Monday that the Confederate flag should be removed from the Statehouse grounds as she acknowledged that its use as a symbol of hatred by the man accused of killing nine black church members has made it too divisive to display in such a public space.

Republican Governor Nikki Haley’s move came just days after authorities charged Dylann Storm Roof, 21, with murder.

The man appeared in photos waving Confederate flags and burning or desecrating US flags, and purportedly wrote of fomenting racial violence. People who survived the attack told police that he hurled racial insults during the incident on Wednesday last week.

“The murderer now locked up in Charleston said he hoped his actions would start a race war. We have an opportunity to show that not only was he wrong, but that just the opposite is happening,” Haley said, flanked by Democrats and Republicans who joined her call. “My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us, we can move our state forward in harmony, and we can honor the nine blessed souls who are now in Heaven.”

The massacre inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has suddenly made removing the flag — long thought politically impossible in South Carolina — the go-to position, even for conservative Republican politicians.

Haley was flanked by US Senator Lindsey Graham, a presidential hopeful, as well as South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and Democratic US Representative Jim Clyburn.

Within moments, her call was echoed by the chairman of the Republican National Committee and US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The governor’s declarations sparked action in other arenas: Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn called for the Confederate emblem to be removed from the state flag, becoming the first top-tier Republican to do so.

In Tennessee, both Democrats and Republicans called for the removal of a bust of Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest from an alcove outside the senate’s chambers.

And Walmart announced that it is removing any items from its store shelves and Web site that feature the Confederate flag.

Haley urged the state’s Republican-led legislature to debate the issue no later than this summer.

If not, she said she will call a special session and force them to resolve it.

“I will use that authority for the purpose of the legislature removing the flag from the statehouse grounds,” she said.

South Carolina House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said that he is confident after talking to members of both parties that the Confederate flag will be taken down within the next two months.

Lawmakers have proposed moving it to the state-run Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.

Making any changes to the banner requires a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the South Carolina legislature under the terms of a 15-year-old deal that moved it from atop the statehouse to a position next to a monument to Confederate soldiers out front.

The previous governor to call for the flag’s removal, Republican David Beasley, was hounded out of office in 1998 by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, effectively ending his political career.

“Do not associate the cowardly actions of a racist to our Confederate banner,” the group’s South Carolina commander, Leland Summers, said in a statement. “There is absolutely no link between the Charleston massacre and the Confederate memorial banner. Don’t try to create one.”

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